For Muslim couples going through a divorce, there is an additional onion layer for the separating spouses to unpeel in order to resolve all issues arising from the breakdown of their marriage.
The Mahr (which depending on its cultural origins is also referred to as the Maher, Meher, or Mehr), is a central component of any Islamic wedding. It was premised on the principle of empowering women by either providing or agreeing to provide the bride with a sum of money, or other asset. Depending on the culture, she could demand her Mahr (a) at any time, or (b) upon a specified event occurring, such as the couple separating.
Mahr Agreements Can Be Enforced By The Courts
Interestingly, the Mahr is often entered into like an enforceable contract. The amount or asset listed is clear, the parties are clearly identified, it is entered into voluntarily by the couple before their marriage, is dated, signed and also witnessed. In other words, provided that the terms are clear enough, it meets all of the requirements of being a marriage contract (i.e. a prenuptial agreement).
Depending on the wording of the actual Mahr signed by the parties, Courts have been enforcing Mahr Agreements as contracts. The amount provided for the Mahr to the wife is over and above the property division regime that equally divides the couple's equity.
The body of case law on this issue is growing and evolving. It is important to speak to a lawyer experienced in family law and who is familiar with your cultural and religious nuances to understand your rights and obligations upon separation, and whether your Mahr is enforceable.